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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Scenes of Mergers Past

I'm about to be booted from my Chicago hotel room, so I don't have time to explore this theme in detail, but I wanted to put a bookmark on something. Yesterday I spent a couple hours walking around (and photographing--more on that later, too) the derelict Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee. I keep hearing about how it's been redeveloped or under redevelopment, but basically the giant buildings--blocks and blocks of them--are gutted and idle, like a quickly-abandoned Soviet city. And it was quickly abandoned, 20 years ago, when the owners shifted production to a different facility, turning Pabst into a contract brew.

Each time I speak on my book tour, someone asks the same question: what's going to happen with the future of beer, with consolidation and so on? Wandering around that complex is a nice meditation on at least one potential future--and a likely one, at least for many of these quickly-growing young breweries. Capitalism is a violent and sometimes jarring force, and as quickly as it graces a business with the generative force to rise from the pavement, it can strike it right back down. The excitement and energy we are witnessing in brewing now is no different than the one that visited the US 150 years ago, and thinking it is a permanent, stable state is belied by the lessons of history. Anyway more on that soon. Meanwhile a couple of pictures to tide you over.

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